During the summer, attics can get very hot very quickly. Here are some fundamental attic cleaning and prep tips to keep your home comfortable and your utility bills under control.
Check the ventilation. In the summer, attic temperatures can skyrocket to as high as 150° Fahrenheit. If you don’t have adequate ventilation, a good portion of this heat will radiate into your living space. A well-ventilated attic can keep utility bills down by expelling warm air and refreshing it with cooler outside air. It’s generally best to have about one square foot of ventilation opening for every 150 square feet of ceiling space. Look to see if your eave soffits are open, and consider adding gable fans, ridge venting or solar powered roof venting if your ventilation is limited to gable vents.
Check for any leaks. Even the tiniest roof leaks can quietly damage insulation, while promoting mildew and mold growth. Attic leaks can be somewhat difficult to identify. You can start by looking for signs of wet insulation. You should also watch for whitish water stains on the roof decking and along rafters near the chimney openings, vents and valleys.
Look for signs of uninvited guests. When inspecting your attic for leaks, you should also watch for feathers, animal droppings and plant matter. Rats, mice, bats, birds, raccoons, squirrels and opossum often carry parasites and pathogens in their feces, urine and saliva. If you see any signs that one of these critters has made its way into your attic, contact your local animal control office. After the animal is removed you will want to have the insulation replaced. You may also want to add hardware cloth over vents and soffiting to seal off your attic.
Add a radiant heat barrier. You can lower the temperature in your attic by as much as 20° Fahrenheit by adding a radiant heat barrier, which reflects more than 90 percent of heat that would normally radiate through your roof.
Seal air leaks. Air can move through gaps in wall joints and holes for plumbing and wire. If you notice any of these in your attic, seal them using an expanding caulk or foam. Just make sure to do this before you add new insulation, since you will have difficulty seeing them afterward.
Add insulation. The US Department of Energy recommends a minimum of R30 insulation for home attics. That said, the more insulation you have, the cooler your home will stay in the summer. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to insulate everything at once. Simply start in the center of the attic. Add more when you can, moving toward the edges of the room. You should notice a difference in comfort and utility charges the moment you get started.
In the southern part of the country, attics often house a home’s ductwork, air handling system and water heater. If this is the case in your home, make sure to flush your water heater to eliminate sediment from the bottom of the tank. You should also have your AC system or heat pump condensing coil inspected for dust and dirt. Make sure to inspect your ductwork for breaks and loose connections. If you notice any, be sure to seal them with aluminum tape.
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